Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My First Conference Experience

This year, I've decided to try and get out of my comfort zone more often when it pertains to my writing career. The first step I took was to join Twitter. Yes, I know that sounds silly, but I've been stuck in Facebook Land for so long that I wasn't even sure how to get started. (Micro blogging? What the heck is that?) But I actually had to get on Twitter for one of my clients, and I found I really enjoy it. It's a fabulous networking tool, I get to stay on top of my love of celebrity gossip, get expert writing advice and see which agents are looking for new material. Score!

Next, I decided to attend my very first writing conference. I've been freelancing for years now and have attended a few workshops here and there, but have never braved a conference. I vowed to stick to my new resolution of advancing my career so I registered for the Write Now! Conference put on by the Triangle Area Freelancers in Raleigh, N.C. It was extremely affordable and my family and I had an excuse to take a fun weekend trip. The husband and kids dropped me off at the conference bright and early this past Saturday morning and then hit the museums. Here's what my schedule looked like:

8:00 to 9:00 a.m. - Registration and breakfast
9:00 to 9:50 a.m. - Keynote address, "Santa Claus, Small-Town Murder and $10,000 Restaurant Tab: 10 Stories that Taught Me (Almost) Everything I Know About Writing Non-Fiction," given by Zac Petit, managing editor of Writer's Digest.
10:00-10:50 a.m. - Freelance Writing for Beginners
11:00-11:50 a.m. - The Good, The Bad and the Nightmare Query
12:00-12:50 p.m. - Lunch
1:00-1:50 p.m. - Strategies for Simplifying Your Writing
2:00-2:50 p.m. - Write Like a Renegade: Breaking the Rules for Freelance Success
3:00-4:00 p.m. - Ask the Freelancers Roundtable

As you can see, it was an action-packed day. I was hesitant to attend the Freelance Writing for Beginners session, but I'm glad I did. Don Vaughan gave an excellent talk and I picked up a few ideas for developing stories. Conference attendees chose from two tracks during each hour and I opted not to attend sessions on taxes, memoir writing, copyright and legal questions and writing for religious and spiritual markets. However, each attendee received a CD with handouts from every single session, which I found to be a great bonus! My packet also included a list of tips for making the most of the conference, which I thought was a nice addition.

I also groaned when I walked into the "Strategies for Simplifying Your Writing" seminar and received a handout with grammar exercises, but as it turns out, I needed a refresher in active and static verbs, intensifiers, adverbs and the like. My writing definitely needs to be freshened up from time to time. One of the highlights of the conference was the chance to play "fan girl" and introduce myself to Linda Formichelli, co-author of The Renegade Writer. She gave a great presentation and I'm glad I got the chance to let her know how much I love her book.

All in all, I had a great time geeking out at my first conference. I passed out a few business cards, chatted with some fellow writers, picked up a horror novel from a local author, took away some valuable tips and scribbled pages and pages of article and blog post ideas throughout the course of the day. I didn't let myself drown in fear.

What have you done lately to get out of your writer comfort zone?

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